World junior long jump champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson is cool, calm and collected ahead of the heptathlon at the London Olympic Games
It might be because her name’s a bit of a mouthful that Katarina Johnson-Thompson is better known as the ‘new Jess Ennis’ – but in just a few weeks she could well be the new heptathlon heroine on everybody’s lips.
The seven-pronged event has been en vogue ever since Ennis waltzed to world gold in 2009 and while she remains Team GB’s golden girl for London 2012, Johnson-Thompson is rapidly catching up.
In May, the 19-year-old signalled her Olympic ambitions with a new heptathlon personal best – bettering Ennis’ junior British record – and a month later she was shouting them from the rooftops after racking up 6248 points, the second best score by a junior anywhere since the 80s.
Throw into the mix a long jump gold medal at the World Junior Championships earlier this month as well as a 100m hurdles personal best and it has already been a stellar year for the Liverpudlian teenager – and at London 2012 it’s only going to get better.
“I have been surprised by the progress I have made,” said Johnson-Thompson.
“I always thought it was within me to get the A standard but the heptathlon is very difficult to do all the events and bring it all together on the same day. So for me to do it was just a dream come true really.
“I’m in good shape going into the Olympics. I got a personal best in the long jump and hurdles at the world juniors a couple of weekends ago and hopefully I can build on that.
“I think coming into the Olympics under the radar is helping. But it is great having a role model like Jessica Ennis there. She holds the British record which was a great feat and I will be watching her during her performances.
“I have already seen how she competes and handles all the pressure and it is amazing how she can handle it all and hopefully I can get a glimpse of how she does that.”
Johnson-Thompson was denied a new long jump personal best with her winning leap of 6.81m because of an illegal wind reading, but the fact it was her third attempt of the competition bodes well for the heptathlon where athletes have little time to get into the groove.
Similarly, her hurdles personal best came in her heat before missing out on the final – something that is helping to keep her feet on the ground ahead of London 2012, although she has no intention of just making up the numbers.
She added: “I failed to make the final of the hurdles so winning [the long jump] and losing in a way was a great send-off to the Olympics for me because you need to stay grounded. I don’t think you should go in on some cloud nine high.
“But it is looking good for me. I got a personal best in the heats of the hurdles which I will only get one shot at in the heptathlon and I did it first time at the world juniors and then I got my PB in the long jump in the first three jumps as well.
“My expectations for how well I am going to do at London 2012 have not changed. There is absolutely no pressure for me and everyone is just saying go there and have a look around and take in the experience.”